Chemistry 101

My original plan was to tell you about attending the BEC Conference last week. I wanted to share how great it was to see people again, to talk and see people smiling and happy—people were so happy. It was two years since the event last happened, and people were glad to be back. But something happened this weekend that made me pause and change course just a bit. Indulge me, please, just once. If you know me well, you might have an idea of what I’m about to say.

For the first time in history, this past Saturday night, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils met in the NCAA Tournament—the Final Four. I’ll spare you the details, but you probably know what was supposed to happen didn’t happen. Duke’s retiring coach, Mike Krzyzewski—Coach K—was supposed to win his final game against UNC, allowing him to go on and claim one last NCAA Tournament title. That didn’t happen. And that made me happy, giddy, overjoyed … want me to go on?

Yes, I’m a Tar Heel fan. That’s the way my dad raised me. I spent so much time watching UNC basketball with my dad. After I grew up and moved to another state, I’d call my dad after watching the games so we could celebrate together. I couldn’t do that this year. I lost my father in late 2020 to Alzheimer’s. That’s partly (mainly) why I wanted the Heels to win so badly against Duke. I wanted it for him.

I learned a lot about basketball from my dad. He was a big fan of former coach Dean Smith, who lost his battle with dementia in 2014. Dean Smith was a great coach, but he was also a great leader. Several years ago, I read Smith’s book, The Carolina Way, which offers leadership lessons from his lifetime of coaching. Smith didn’t just coach players to play the game. He taught and valued teamwork and leadership skills. In the chapter on teamwork, he talks about the recruiting process and how they wanted to make sure recruits were comfortable playing in a team environment. “We constantly thought about ways to make the team concept stronger. We called it chemistry; the better the chemistry among the players, the stronger the team.”

No matter what team you’re on … manufacturer, fabricator, installer … you’ve got to play well together to be successful. And, maybe more importantly, as a leader, you’ve got to support your team and remember that it’s not just about you.

That’s a lesson Coach K taught as well. I like what he said after the game Saturday night: “It’s not about me, especially right now. As a coach, I’m just concerned about these guys.”

It’s not about me. That’s a good lesson and reminder for all of us. No matter how successful we are at what we do, we didn’t do it alone.

I’ll never be a Duke fan, and I’ll never cheer for them. But I admire Coach K. He’s a good leader and a good person, from what I can tell. And yes, I’m adding his book on leadership to my Amazon cart. We can all learn from others—even our biggest rivals.

And if you missed our BEC coverage, you can read about it here and here and watch our newscasts here and here. You can also check out Deb Levy’s blogs about the event here.